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5th Annual Disaster Epidemiology Workshop emphasized innovations in the field

Posted By Ashley Conley, Thursday, May 22, 2014
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On May 14-15, 2014, 55 people gathered in Atlanta from state and local health departments across the U.S., along with representatives from CDC, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the American Red Cross at the Fifth Annual Disaster Epidemiology (DE) Workshop. The CSTE workshop was also broadcast live via webinar. Approximately 60 people participated virtually via webinar. The theme of the workshop was “Innovations in Disaster Epidemiology,” which reflects how widely accepted DE is becoming as a part of the public health response to large-scale emergencies. The workshop was supported through a cooperative agreement with CDC and was co-sponsored by the Safe States Alliance (SSA) and NACCHO.

Dr. Sally Phillips, RN, PhD, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (acting) for the Office of Health Affairs (OHA) at DHS, was the workshop’s keynote speaker. She described the evolution of DHS’s role in addressing health issues related to homeland security, including biological and chemical defense; food, agricultural, and veterinary defense; planning and exercise support; health incidence surveillance; and state and local initiatives. Another major focus of OHA is the safety and health of the more than240,000 employees in DHS, which includes staff in FEMA, US Border Patrol, and many others. OHA has overseen a strengthening of biodefense efforts of the BioWatch Program and the National Biosurveillance Integration Center. OHA is also working on guidance for radiation and nuclear disasters and for chemical defense programs. Workshop participants had many questions for Dr. Phillips about how OHA and DHS interact with public health agencies at the state and local levels.

The workshop included the following five sessions:
  • Surveillance during Disasters: Innovations in the Use of Technology and Tools
    • E-Surveillance
    • Epi-Info Applications for DE
    • Utilizing Android Tablets for Data Entry in the Field
  • Social Media and DE: Innovative Approaches to Surveillance and Situational Awareness
    • Hurricane Sandy: Changing the Landscape of Social Media Strategies
    • Operation Dragon Fire
    • Tracking Deaths during Hurricane Sandy
  • Innovating Approaches for Disaster Response to Recent Events
    • Blast Injuries from a Massive Explosion in a Residential Area in Texas, 2013
    • Acute Health Effects Associated with the Elk River Chemical Spill in West Virginia, 2014
  • Emergency Management and DE—An Innovative Partnerships from One State’s Perspective (Alabama)
  • Establishing Innovative Partnerships for Conducting DE
    • Operational Biosurveillance in the National Biosurveillance Integration Center
    • Partnering with the American Red Cross in the Disaster Cycle
The CSTE DE Subcommittee provided an overview of its major activities and accomplishments during the last year. The webinar was recorded and will be made available soon on the webinar library.
Ashley Conley, MS, CPH, CHEP is the chair of the Disaster Epidemiology Subcommittee. She is an epidemiologist at the city of Nashua Division of Public Health and Community Services in New Hampshire.
( Photo by Gil Talbot, courtesy of Saint Anselm College)
Ashley Conley, MS, CPH, CHEP
Nashua Division of Public Health and Community Services
New Hampshire

Tags:  disaster epidemiology  meeting summary 

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Influenza Data Management and Epidemiological Analysis course

Posted By Sara Ramey, Thursday, April 24, 2014
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A team of four CSTE members and staff traveled to Athens, Greece to facilitate and lecture at the CSTE-CDC Influenza Data Management and Epidemiological Analysis Course. Rachelle Boulton from the Utah Department of Health, Janet Hamilton from the Florida Department of Health, Dennis Perrotta, former State Epidemiologist from Texas, and Jennifer Lemmings from CSTE, joined staff from CDC and the World Health Organization European Office in a data management training course for influenza surveillance data managers/epidemiologists in the European Region. Influenza surveillance staff from Albania, Armenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Georgia, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, and the Ukraine participated in this 5 day course. Lectures were provided in English and translated to Russian for participants as needed.

The course was designed to help surveillance data managers establish, maintain, and improve influenza surveillance systems by teaching Influenza data managers and staff roles and responsibilities, minimum data requirements for influenza surveillance, quality assurance, quality control (standardized data entry, methods for checking accuracy and consistency of data), basic data analysis, data interpretation, and reporting. Some of the lectures focused on very specific details of data management methods, such as setting up tables in Microsoft Excel, while others encouraged discussion of general concepts such as deciding on which type of baseline to choose for their data.
There was a wide range of capabilities among the participants with some having advanced knowledge and experience and others a more basic understanding of influenza surveillance data management concepts and tools. Participants especially enjoyed the hands-on work using their most recent 12 months of seasonal influenza surveillance data. These data were usually counts of influenza-like illness (ILI) or Severe Acute Respiratory Illness (SARI). CSTE members and staff each provided several lectures and individual attention to participants as they worked case studies and group activities in data management and epidemiological analysis. On the last day of training, each country provided a short presentation using their influenza data and the methods learned during the training in a mock effort to convince their Minister of Health that influenza surveillance was of vital importance and should be continued.
Dennis Perrotta
CSTE Consultant

Tags:  infectious disease  influenza  meeting summary  member spotlight 

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